We continually hear the same message about hiring within the healthcare sector: there is a shortage of qualified workers in every discipline and not enough new professionals coming in behind the industry to meet expected increases in demand. The reality is that this message has changed little since the 1960s. The U.S. healthcare system has been struggling for decades to hire enough workers to adequately fill open healthcare jobs.
Perhaps we have been dealing with the problem for so long because we are failing to see its full scope. Perhaps our challenge is not exclusively the result of a lack of high school students choosing something in the medical field as a career. If so, what are some of the things we might be missing?
A lack of efficiency is one problem more healthcare facilities seem to be willing to admit to these days. Another problem is a very real disconnect between healthcare jobs and workers. This disconnect is easily observed in the nursing industry.
Never Enough Nurses
How many times have you heard that the nursing profession is desperately short of qualified professionals? Probably more times than you can recall right now. So why are there so many unemployed nurses in America who finish school and cannot find work? One reason, according to the Nursing World website, is market saturation. In other words, new nurses tend to look for work in the same general area where they received their schooling. There are just not enough jobs in those immediate areas to support the volume of graduates attempting to enter the workforce every year.
Another potential challenge faced by new nurses is the fact that healthcare facilities would prefer to hire experienced professionals rather than those straight out of school. It is the old dichotomy of not being able to get a job without experience and not being able to get the necessary experience without first getting a job.
Both of these issues are just symptoms of that disconnect between healthcare jobs and workers. The industry might do a better job of solving staffing shortages if greater attention were paid to this disconnect. A new program just launched in Seattle may point the way.
Developing the Local Talent Pool
Seattle’s Workforce Development Council recently announced the establishment of a new program they call ‘Health Workforce for the Future’. The program is initially being funded by a $9.4 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Seattle Times, the emphasis of Workforce for the Future is developing a local talent pool capable of meeting Seattle’s present needs.
Rather than continuing to pitch healthcare careers in a general sense and to a wide audience, program officials intend to target the most likely candidates for healthcare careers and offer them training and other resources designed to employ them locally. They believe a local approach to a local problem will help them effectively alleviate their worker shortage.
If the program works as advertised, imagine implementing it across the nation. Imagine every community focusing on developing its own local talent pool without regard to national trends or broad-based programs. This seems like an ideal way to directly connect healthcare employers with the workers they need without having to go outside of the local area.
There is definitely a big disconnect between healthcare jobs and workers. Maybe it’s time to shift our focus and begin addressing the challenges in our own local areas. Let us start at home and then branch out. If every local area could address its own shortages effectively, we would collectively wipe them out.